- Amar Shah, Cricket
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"How's India doing?" my wife, Tejal, asked, still wrapped under the covers.
"Not even a 'Good morning'?" I responded as I rubbed my eyes from another sleepless night staying up watching feeds of the ICC Cricket World Cup on my laptop.
"Maybe after you tell me the score."
"102/2. Sachin just got out a few minutes ago. We're chasing 260."
That woke her up.
Until Thursday, she hadn't shown an iota of interest in the World Cup, but once she heard India was playing Australia in the quarterfinal, her interested peaked. After all, she's still a proud Mumbai girl who can still remember the bitter taste of India getting walloped in the finals in 2003. This would be vindication.
Earlier in the week, she let me know she would stay up and watch the match with me, which usually starts here on the West Coast around 2:30 a.m. and doesn't conclude until after you leave for work in the morning.
The match Thursday took place in Gujarat, the state where both our parents were from. An Indian victory would be something both profound and personal.
We Skyped with my in-laws in Mumbai talking about how Sachin Tendulkar was one century away from 100 total in his career and dreaded how this might be his last match in the World Cup. The winner would play Pakistan in Mohali in a battle for the ages.
I donned my No. 10 Sachin Tendulkar jersey; she put on pajamas. We watched the coin toss. Australia won and chose to bat first. Captain Ricky Ponting would make India chase on a dry wicket.
For days, Ponting had been under the harsh media spotlight, every one questioning whether he was fit to be captain anymore or whether it was time for him to quit because his attitude and performance had been so unlike his usual self.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to play Virender Sehwag, who battled a bum knee, and Suresh Raina over the offense-happy Yusuf Pathan. Some of the names on the Indian team were completely new to Tejal, who was used to seeing such stalwarts like Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly on the field. I could also see her eyes flickering as late night turned into early morning. She struggled to stay up.
My hopes for another Ponting collapse failed to materialize as the Aussie captain batted brilliantly, scoring a century. India's bowling attack led by Zaheer Khan neutralized the rest of the lineup, but India still had a solid chase of 260 runs.
By this time India came to bat, Tejal was sound asleep. I tried to wake her to no avail when Tendulkar and Sehwag started to bat. There was a certain hope that Sehwag would pull a Willis Reed with his bum leg, yet he failed to pull a shot and was caught square leg for a wicket in the eighth over. Tendulkar was vintage Tendulkar, even at age 37, striking aggressively. With his partnership with Gautam Gambhir, it looked as though Tendulkar was on pace for that coveted 100th century, but was dismissed by Shaun Tait for 53. I groaned and yelled at the laptop. Tejal stirred.
When I told her the score, she was up in a flash. Together we watched, at first hopeful, as Gambhir and Virat Kohli steadily built up India's run count. Then Kohli fell in the 28th over, followed by Gambhir's boneheaded running gaffe and Dhoni's dismissal in the 37th over. India's middle order had collapsed with only Yuvraj Singh and Raina left before the bowlers came to bat. The Aussies had our number once again.
Tejal clenched my hand tightly as India's run rate shrunk as the innings went on. We were teetering on a collapse that was so typically Indian. But she reminded me that we still had Yuvi. He didn't disappoint.
So far, Singh had been India's most reliable batsman during the World Cup with his scintillating stroke play. On this night, he put a billion expectations on his shoulders, and shot after shot, boundary after boundary, brought India back. Raina provided the mettle during the partnership, while Singh the chutzpah. After the 46th over, India needed four more runs with 18 balls left to win. It was fitting when Singh smacked a boundary to seal the victory.
Tejal and I ran around the apartment chanting "India! India!" The Aussies were dethroned. Up next was Pakistan, but first, sleep.
Amar Shah is a writer and producer living in Los Angeles. He's currently developing a romantic comedy screenplay set in the world of cricket. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter.
Blurry eyes, tired head. No matter. India beat the Aussies, and it feels fantastic.